In this edition of Music Hall Studies you will find these great performers. Click on their names for a short taster.
Sam Cowell, one of the first stars of what was to become known as music hall, was also one of that fraternity to tour the United States. Others followed and presaged the British Invasion by British pop singers in the early 1960s. Cowell came from a generation of entertainers, who were multi-talented and appeared in farce, melodrama, the Song and Supper rooms and, in the case of Sam, grand opera, La Sonnambula by Bellini.
Songs of the Boer War
In the dying days of the reign of Queen Victoria, audiences thronged into music halls to cheer, at least at first, the latest patriotic song celebrating the bravery of British forces engaged in a conflict being fought many thousands of miles away, the Boer War, in which the British and the Boers sought control of south Africa.
Daisy Bell is the best known song of music hall. Groups of youngsters born years after the death of the halls can still belt out the chorus, possibly believing it to be some sort of folk song. The melody lingers on, but the man who wrote it, Harry Dacre, is long forgotten. His songs were sung by, among others, G.H. MacDermott, Dan Leno, G.H. Chirgwin, George Lashwood and Charles Coborn. Determined to profit by his efforts, unlike so many of his song-writing colleagues who died poor, Harry became his own publisher and, in spite of the worst depredations of song pirates, he died a relatively wealthy man.
Fayne and Evans
In 1980, a curious paragraph appeared in The Stage. It announced the death of David Evans in poor circumstances. No-one really knew what that meant, but it concealed a tragedy that lay behind the break-up of one of the most original double acts in variety, Fayne and Evans. No act reached the top quite as quickly as Fayne and Evans. They first appeared in Variety Bandbox in 1948. Come 1951, they were part of the Royal Variety Show; they made a film with the Goons, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan; and they were a supporting act in a Palladium show starring Judy Garland. They deserved success. They were fast, they were sophisticated and they were unique.
Going to the theatre had become the top leisure time activity in 1886. In New York alone, there were twenty-eight theatres, nine of them presenting vaudeville. Other large cities also featured multiple venues. Theatres were being built in nearly every city and town that could be reached by a rapidly expanding railroad network. Patrons were exuberant and theatres were filled. Vaudeville was burgeoning. Adjacent to Union Square, the centre of the theatre district in New York, was the 14th Street Theatre of Tony Pastor, known as the top vaudeville house in town. It was the third theatre Tony had operated. He had kept moving uptown to take advantage of the new commercial centres and available customers. Over a period of twenty years, his shrewd business practices, friendly personality and attractive shows allowed Tony [unlike other managers] to prosper and grow.